The TEFL profession uses a whole range of acronyms, terms and abbreviations. Here’s a guide to some of the more common ones you’re likely to encounter.
TEFL and ESL definitions
|English as a Foreign Language
|English as a Second Language
|Teaching English as a Foreign Language
|Teaching English as a Second Language
|Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL and TESOL?
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and traditionally refers to teaching in non-English speaking countries. TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language and refers to teaching in English speaking countries, to non-native speakers living or working there.
In practice, the acronyms TEFL and TESL are often used interchangeably, and both are covered by the all-encompassing TESOL, which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
ESL and EFL teaching terminology
|Computer Assisted Language Learning
CALL refers to language instruction through the use of technology. It usually refers to using language learning software to teach specific language points.
|Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
The CEFR is a standardised system of describing ability in a language, allowing anyone involved in language learning and teaching to easily gauge the competencies of a learner. It also helps employers and educational institutes to see if a candidate has the level of language they require. It consists of a 6 point scale, ranging from A1, through A2, B1, B2, C1 and up to C2. A language learner with a C2 level is a competent user of that language.
|Director of Studies
A Director of Studies is an academic manager in a language school or institute. The role of the DoS usually includes recruiting, advising and developing teachers, planning courses and curricula, scheduling and coordinating classes, meeting clients and liaising with sales and management staff.
|English for Academic Purposes
EAP involves teaching students who are studying, or who intend to study, in higher education in an English speaking country. This could include teaching study skills or preparing students for an exam such as the TOEFL.
|English Language Learner
|English Language Teaching or Training
|English for Specific Purposes
ESP refers to teaching English to a learners with specific needs and objectives, and usually refers to teaching professionals in a specific field. For example, doctors may require medical English, bankers may require financial English, company directors may require language for negotiating or making presentations.
|Kindergarten to 12th Grade
K-12 is not specific to English language teaching, but you may see job advertisements asking for K-12 ESL teachers. The term is common in the USA and refers to teaching children from kindergarten through to 12th grade.
|A student’s first language
|A student’s second language
If someone asks you if you use L1 in the classroom, they are asking if you use your students’ native language, or if you only use L2, i.e. English.
|STT / LTT
|Student Talking Time / Learner Talking Time
The amount of time that students (learners) spend talking during a class (ideally as much as possible).
|Total Physical Response
A teaching methodology based on language learning through physical movement.
|Teacher Talking Time
The amount of time the teacher spends talking during a class.
Most language schools and institutes make a distinction between Young Learners (usually up to the age of about 16) and adult learners, and offer different courses accordingly.
TEFL teaching qualifications
|Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
The CELTA is one of the most internationally recognised and accepted entry-level qualifications. The old name for the CELTA was the CTEFLA (Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults). There are many other entry-level qualifications.
|Certificate in English Language Teaching – Primary
A qualification for teaching 6-12 year old learners. Previous Young Learner qualifications offered by Cambridge English were the CELTYL (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners) and the Young Learner Extension to the CELTA.
|Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults
The Delta is a higher level qualification, usually studied after two or more years of teaching for career progression. The old name for the Delta was the DTEFLA (Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults).
|Teaching Knowledge Test
The TKT focuses on the core teaching knowledge needed by teachers, whatever your background and teaching experience.
|Post Graduate Certificate in Education
PGCE is a UK teaching qualification required to teach in the state sector, and is not specific to language teaching.
|International Diploma in Language Teaching Management
The IDLTM is designed for teachers looking to take on management responsibility.
|In-service Certificate in English Language Teaching
ESL exam acronyms
|Business English Certificates
|Business Language Testing Service
|Certificate in Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced
|Certificates in English Language Skills
|Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency
|First Certificate in English or Cambridge English: First
|International English Language Testing System
|Key English Test or Cambridge English: Key
|Preliminary English Test or Cambridge English: Preliminary
|Test of English as a Foreign Language
|Test of English for International Communication
|Cambridge Young Learners English Tests
Acronyms for Professional Associations
|International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language
|TESOL International Association
Have a look at our TEFL A-Z for more ELT terms and definitions.